A surge of emotion welled up inside Corinne at the sight of Seth’s familiar wiry frame standing in the waiting area, holding up a cardboard sign with her name scrawled on it in big block letters. Cartwright. Except he’d started the letters too big, so the ght were crowded right up to the edge. Seth grinned at her over the top of the card. He wasn’t wearing his glasses, and his eyes caught the light and twinkled. Seeing him was like arriving home in her own apartment, comfy and relaxing. Kick off those uncomfortable shoes and sink into the cush of soft slippers.
“You are such a goober!” She greeted him with a light punch in the arm and a kiss on his cheek, which was warm beneath her lips. “Thanks for volunteering to pick us up. You didn’t have to go to all that trouble.”
“I don’t mind. Friends are for picking you up at the airport in the middle of the night. You’ll return the favor—if I ever go anywhere.”
Considering Corinne came and went on a lot of business trips, Seth could spend a good portion of his life waiting at the airport for her. He didn’t do it every time, but tonight, at two in the morning, she really appreciated not having to take a taxi.
“This is my friend Adya. She’s going to be visiting for a while,” Corinne said.
He held out his hand and shook Adya’s. “Corinne has only recently stopped being ashamed of me and started introducing me to her friends. I’m honored to meet you.”
Adya smiled. “Good to meet you too.”
Corinne bumped him in the shoulder again. “Cut it out, Seth. I didn’t intentionally not introduce you to my friends. It just worked out that way.”
“Well, anyway, I guess I’m in the inner circle now,” Seth continued to tease. “I suppose you ladies have some luggage for me to schlep?”
They walked to the baggage area and waited for Corinne’s blue bags and Adya’s red ones to show up on the carousel. Over Corinne’s protest that they could manage their own luggage, Seth rented a cart and piled it with everything. She had to admit that being pampered by their personal bellhop was kind of nice.
The three of them chitchatted their way out of the terminal and to Seth’s car in the parking garage. Fall had arrived in Ohio with a vengeance. A bitter wind whipped Corinne’s skirt around her legs and drove the ends of her hair into her eyes, making them sting. She shivered as she settled in the front seat of Seth’s car, the heater blasting her bare legs.
Somehow he managed to stuff all their bags either into his trunk or beside Adya in the backseat; then he went to return the cart.
“What a sweetheart,” Adya said. “He’s such a cutie and so funny.”
“Yeah. I like him. … He’s a good neighbor,” she added in case Adya misread her meaning.
“Just a neighbor?”
“Of course. What else? Seth is a friend. We like hanging out. Period.” She might have sounded a bit more snappish than she intended, but it was very late at night, and she was exhausted from the flight.
“Okay.” Adya changed the subject as Seth got into the car. She asked him about his practice and how he’d decided to become a doctor.
“I don’t know if I chose medicine or not,” he admitted as he steered the car out of the garage. “In my family, it was a given. My dad’s a doctor, and my grandfather and several uncles and cousins, a dynasty of pill providers. But I didn’t have a driving desire to do anything else, and I like helping people. I’m happy with my career.”
“He’s good at it,” Corinne said. “I got to witness his skills up close and personal one day when our neighbor Mrs. Jamison fell on the stairs in front of the building. She’s this high-strung old woman, and she was freaking out. You’d have thought she broke her leg or her hip, when it turned out she didn’t even sprain anything. Seth calmed her down and bandaged the scrape on her leg while we waited for the ambulance to arrive. By the time it got there, he had Mrs. J laughing, and that woman never laughs. Sour is her default facial expression. He’s really good with patients.”
“Shucks, ma’am,” Seth drawled. “Twarn’t nuthin’.”
“It was. You’re always so thoughtful like that. Once the paramedics arrived, I was out of there. I had things to do. But Seth went with Mrs. Jamison to the hospital and waited with her until her family got there.”
“That’s nice. She was probably scared, the poor old thing.” Adya’s voice drifted from the backseat.
“You wouldn’t say ‘poor thing’ if you ever met this woman,” Corinne said. “She’s got a temper on her like my mom when someone on one of her committees crosses her.”
They fell silent for a while. Corinne zoned out listening to the purr of the motor and the hum of the tires on the road. Familiar spots zipped by in the darkness, measuring out one mile closer to home. She was happy to be there, content in the warmth of Seth’s car with Adya safe in the seat behind her.
She glanced at Seth’s face bathed in the glow of the dashboard lights. He was no looker like Ian or, God, Bree’s gorgeous fiancé. But his angular profile was very attractive, with a prominent nose that made a statement and a firm jawline. His lips were almost too pretty for a man, the bottom lip pouting and the top with a deep divot. But his eyes were the main attraction in Corinne’s opinion. Deep-set under a jutting brow, they always seemed serious, even when he was laughing.
She tried to think of someone she knew who would recognize Seth’s amazing qualities and appreciate his nontraditional attractiveness. He would be a real prize for the right woman who was worthy of him.